Home Theater

Day & Date Finally Gets Real, Pt. 1

Day & Date Finally Gets Real

Ever since the home video market was effectively born in 1977 with the launch of the VHS player and the release of The Sound of Music, M*A*S*H, and Patton, people have been eager to watch movies at home as soon after they appear in movie theaters as possible. While it used to take months or even years for a film to see a home release, the theatrical window has been increasingly shrinking.

Movies now typically play exclusively in the theater for a month or so before going to premium video-on-demand (PVOD) services such as pay-per-view or airlines, then to an online digital release such as Kaleidescape or Vudu, then a disc release about 14 weeks after the theatrical run, then to home video services like HBO a couple of months later, and then finally to non-pay TV services. For example, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was released theatrically on February 8 2019, and was released for digital download on April 16, with the disc release scheduled to arrive on May 7.

 

But these shrinking release windows still haven’t been enough to satisfy the desire to see movies soon after they’re released in theaters. The biggest thing keeping windows from getting even shorter is the delicate relationship between the movie studios and the theater owners. Studios make millions—sometimes billions—from the main commercial release, and they don’t want to do anything that might hurt the goose that lays their biggest golden egg. Regardless, a few companies have been working hard to have movies available at home the day they’re released.

 

Bel Air Circuit

At the top of the pyramid is the Bel Air Circuit—an invitation-only group of individuals consisting mainly of Hollywood A-list actors, directors, producers, and studio executives who receive just-released movies to enjoy in their personal screening rooms. While this used to require delivering film reels via courier and having a projectionist on site to handle 

the reel-changing chores, members now receive the same digital files sent to commercial theaters. The upside is that most studios make their films available for viewing to Circuit members at no charge. The downside is that unless your name is Spielberg, Tarantino, Stallone, or Cruise, you won’t ever be invited to join.

 

Bel Air Cinema

Very similar in concept to the Bel Air Circuit is Bel Air Cinema. The biggest difference is that unlike an invitation-only, private club comprised of a Hollywood who’s who, anyone with a big enough checkbook can inquire about becoming a customer.

Bel Air Cinema requires the kind of commercial cinema
projection equipment shown here

But your regular home theater need not apply. In fact, even high-end, luxury home theaters aren’t compatible, because Bel Air Cinema is less about home theater and more about creating a commercial theater in your home. That requires a Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI)-compliant projector and movie server costing $100,000 or more. (Feel free to read the latest Digital Cinema System Specification, Version 1.3—it’s only 155 pages.) And expect to shell out $5,000 or more for the privilege of watching a film, plus annual fees.

Prima Cinema

The first company to make a real go of the day-and-date concept was Prima Cinema. Launched in 2012, with financial backing from companies including Universal Pictures, Best Buy, and IMAX, Prima lets you watch movies at home the day they hit the theaters.

 

Unlike the Bel Air systems, Prima’s hardware works with any home theater technology, providing an HDMI output that can be connected to any brand of AV receiver or processor and any TV or projector. The system includes a massive array of security features, including accelerometers to prevent moving the hardware, unique watermarking for every viewing, and a fingerprint scanner with “liveness” detector. 

Day & Date Finally Gets Real

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Prima initially had agreements with just Universal, Lionsgate, Focus Features, Cinedigm, and Magnolia. But after a couple of years in operation, this list expanded to include Paramount, The Weinstein Company, Relativity EuropaCorp, Roadside Attractions, Gravitas Ventures, Samuel Goldwyn Films, IFC Films, and Open Road, meaning a far larger number of titles was available for viewing. 

 

But Prima isn’t cheap. The hardware alone costs $35,000, with movies running $500 per viewing. I have the unique experience of having been the only reviewer to live with Prima—not once, but twice—so I was able to experience the system 

firsthand. And I can confirm it has a wonderful interface for browsing and choosing movies, and delivers pictures in beautiful, better-than-Blu-ray 4:2:2, 10-bit quality.

 

Unfortunately, around 2016, Prima seemed to fall off the map. Movies stopped downloading, and dealers couldn’t get a hold of the company. Prior to this post, I reached out to a new contact listed on the company’s redesigned webpage: Richard Jenkins, Head of Content. According to Jenkins, “We are still operating and hoping to close our current

Day & Date Finally Get Real

investment round by the end of June; once new funding is in place we will then be making an announcement in early July, so please standby—we will update you as soon as we can.”

 

Red Carpet Home Cinema

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran a story heralding the launch of a brand new company in this space: Red Carpet Home Cinema—the brainchild of Fred Rosen, the man behind Ticketmaster, and Dan Fellman, past president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. Red Carpet is more Prima Cinema (of which Rosen sat on the board of advisors) than Bel Air Cinema since it will work with any traditional AV system but requires a $15,000 piece of proprietary hardware (loaded with security provisions to keep Hollywood content safe from piracy). According to the site’s FAQ, “Movies will be variably priced with the most current films in the low thousands—no movie will be priced below $500.” The Times article mentioned that films will cost $1,500 to $3,000, which will include two viewings within a 36-hour period.

 

I recently spoke to Mr. Rosen, and found him incredibly forthcoming and straightforward about his new company’s plans. He repeatedly said Red Carpet isn’t looking to disrupt the current cinema model, but rather wants to provide a luxury option for

Day & Date Finally Gets Real

Red Carpet Home Cinema co-founder Fred Rosen

home viewing to people willing to pay for it.

 

Rosen said: “We asked the studios, ‘What will it take to make this happen? You set the price and terms.’ The studios said I was the first guy to come in and not try to tell them what they could charge, not tell them how it was going to be.”

 

Red Carpet lists studio support from 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, and Annapurna, with five titles currently available for viewing: Pet Sematary, Missing

Link, Hellboy, The Curse of La Llorona, and Shazam! But Rosen says he feels pretty comfortable they’ll be able to add more studio partners.

 

“This is a luxury product, of something that is very limited and difficult to get,” he said, “and our customers are willing to pay for the convenience and privilege.” The company isn’t looking for mass sales, but would like to sign up a limited number of affluent clients, saying it would be happy to have hundreds of members in New York and LA, and about a hundred more in each of the largest cities throughout the US.

 

Rosen said there are luxury options available for virtually every other kind of product or service, and Red Carpet wants to provide athletes, movie stars, and just “regular” wealthy people with the freedom to consume content when and how they want. “If a kid can watch a movie on their phone 90 days after it is released for $.99, why can’t there be an early option for the luxury market that is willing to pay for it?”

 

According to Rosen, people last year spent $70 billion on private planes and $60 billion on private yachts. “I’m not saying that’s good or bad, it just is what it is. And if those people want to spend $3,000 to watch a movie in the privacy of their own home, why shouldn’t they have that as an option like any other luxury purchase?”

 

Red Carpet is currently in beta, with several systems installed in both New York and California. When I asked Rosen when the service would come out of beta, he said, “As soon as we make a sale! It’s ready to go now.” For those with the means, Red Carpet Home Cinema is available now throughout the country.

 

In Part 2, I’ll talk about the current status of the much-hyped day-and-date startup The Screening Room, and provide an update on Xcinex, which plans to sell its hardware for a mass-market-friendly $30 and charge for viewings based on the number of people in the room, like at a movie theater.

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Creating Rayva: Dimitris Theodorou

Creating Rayva: Dimitris Theodorou
Theo's Corner

Dimitris Theodorou has turned out to be much more than just an excellent architect. He created
the striking Origami theater design for Rayva, and has since followed it up 
with the bold Light
Edge (shown above). Cineluxe editor-in-chief Michael Gaughn recently interviewed Dimitris and
me as part of my series of conversations with the prime movers behind Rayva. We discussed
Dimitris’ surprising emergence as an innovative designer, and some of the challenges we faced
with his first designs.

—T.K.

 

 

Theo Kalomirakis  I met Dimitris through a friend. That introduction didn’t have anything to do with creating new designs. It had to do with needing to have somebody architecturally develop the original templates for all the Rayva theaters. But as I got to know him, I realized he has a talent beyond being an architect—he’s an artist. So once I started reaching out to designers in Greece and other parts, Dimitris said, “You know what? Now that I know what the whole Rayva system is like, let me come up with something.”

 

Michael Gaughn  That turned out to be the Origami theme, right?—which has been Rayva’s most successful design so far, if I’m not mistaken.

TK Yes.

 

MG  Was there any particular inspiration for that design or did it just come from playing around with shapes?

 

Dimitris Theodorou  I’ve always liked triangular shapes, and I thought, let’s try them in a bigger space. I wondered how they could be used in complicated and interesting combinations in a theater. I took that simple form and tried it in different positions and angles in a typical dedicated home theater room. I started by dividing a simple rectangle, and then I folded it so that it became 3D. I liked the result, so I started developing the design with Theo.

 

We then decided to add light fixtures to it. I added illumination to the pyramid shapes, so that light comes out of that form. I think the combination of the unlighted and lighted pyramids creates some interesting forms and shadows.

 

We have a very simple form that, multiplied by the shape itself, has the ability to create a more interesting design. That is the concept of Light Edge, too. I’m fascinated by complex constructions that arise out of simple forms.

 

MG  Home theater spaces present a really unique design challenge. They’re not just another room. They’re not just about four walls and entryways and windows. So what were some of the challenges of creating that first design? Was there a learning curve to it?

 

TK  It was mostly making sure that whatever design we came up with could be applied to our backdrop, which are our panels, which can fit in any room, any size. We created the equivalent of a Lego system where you add panels to address the needs of larger rooms and take out panels for smaller rooms. That flexibility is the backbone of Rayva.

 

The challenge was, how do we come up with something that can be showcased in front of the panels and doesn’t hide speakers or cover too much of the acoustical treatments? We needed to balance the function and the role of the artwork with the need to adhere to the technical specifications.

 

DT  Because you can’t really know the position of the

Creating Rayva: Dimitris Theodorou

ABOUT DIMITRIS THEODOROU

Dimitris Theodorou was born in Athens, Greece in 1983.

 

He studied interior and furniture design at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens and then Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens. While pursuing his Masters degree, he began working as a freelance architect on many projects both alone and with others.

 

Dimitris received his Masters in “Theory in Architecture” in the summer of 2018, which made him very happy since he can now focus on his own work.

 

He has participated in many architectural competitions in Greece, from which he has gained three distinctions.

 

Dimitris joined the Rayva team in February of 2017. His main responsibility has been to develop all the different room templates, categorized by theme and size, while also managing the company’s current projects. He has designed two themes for Rayva’s portfolio: Origami and Light Edge.

 

He enjoys walking around Athens and shooting photos of buildings, ruins, and . . . cats. He also enjoys listening to music and more rarely—because of lack of time—skiing.

speakers ahead of time, Origami and Light Edge provide a lot of flexibility for the positioning of the design elements. Instead of creating a design that can only be positioned one way, I designed the theme as a whole, and just gave it a structure, a grid, so its elements can be repositioned as needed.

 

TK  The light fixtures are movable objects, so they can be positioned around the speakers and never have to cover them. The ingenuity of the system is that it offers so much flexibility. Unlike the fixtures in some of the other design themes, which must be in a specific location in the center of the panel, the Origami design elements can be placed wherever we want to look good without obstructing the technology behind the panels.

MG  So, for purely functional reasons, you can actually end up with unique rooms, because you need to position the fixtures differently every time.

 

TK  Every room will look different. The same design elements, but differently positioned every time.

 

DT  The beauty of Origami is that you have only one very simple fixture, but it is very versatile and can lead to numerous designs.

 

MG  What was it like for both of you translating the design itself into reality?

 

TK  Well, we took the design and gave it to a manufacturer, and told them to bring it to life, but that was not the right approach. We kind of lost control by having it developed without us being part of the engineering to make sure that the design would work. So after we met Paul Stary, we gave the design to him and he deconstructed it. He took it apart in multiple pieces and tried to put it together in a way that is always under his control. He created a set of blueprints that we can now give to any factory in the world, and they can manufacture the same light fixture every time.

 

MG  We’ve already written about one of the Origami installations, and I know there are others on order. Have you executed more than one?

 

TK  We have executed two, and we have another one that’s going to Angola. We have others that are already in showrooms.

 

MG  Do you have any orders yet for Light Edge?

 

TK  We had the same challenge with Light Edge that we had with Origami. It was originally engineered without the right approach to creating the product. Paul is in the process of finalizing the engineering drawings for both Light Edge and Origami.

 

MG  When you were working on Origami, did Dimitris do a lot of the work on the design and then present it to you for comment or did both of you work on it all along the way?

 

DT  We shared some thoughts at the beginning, and then I did some initial drawings, and that was pretty much the 

whole theme. When there’s an order, we discuss how to accommodate the exact position of the speakers, and then it goes into production. It’s so simple, really.

 

DT  We shared some thoughts at the beginning, and then I did some initial drawings, and that was pretty much the whole theme. When there’s an order, we discuss how to accommodate the exact position of the speakers, and then it goes into production. It’s so simple, really.

TK  An issue we had to deal with was making sure to orient the triangles so the light from the fixtures wouldn’t wash out the screen. You can always turn them off, of course, when the movie plays. But if you want to leave them slightly on, the ones facing the screen create a problem. So we don’t have any lights facing the screen.

 

MG  I also noticed that the rendering of Light Edge [shown at the top of the page] shows some of the fixtures positioned on the ceiling as well.

 

DT  Yes, that can be an option, but only with Light Edge, not Origami. The Origami fixtures are too big to put on the ceiling.

 

MG  Is Light Edge the only design where you have the option of having a light element there?

 

TK  No, Movement is another one. It uses LED lights on the wall and the ceiling panel.

 

MG  Whose design was that?

 

TK  It was originally designed for a custom theater. But we modularized it and it became a Rayva design, except it’s not designed by a specific artist.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Why Movie Theaters Still Matter

Why Movie Theaters Still Matter

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read Dennis Burger’s piece in which he laid out 10 reasons why home theaters are better than movie theaters because I recently had a movie-going experience that reinforced pretty much all of his arguments. Technically, it was three movie-going experiences all united under one common theme: A child’s love of How to Train Your Dragon.

 

You see, my 10-year-old daughter is completely obsessed with dragons, and that obsession was born the day she watched How to Train Your Dragon for the first time—in our home theater, mind you. For over two years, she has absorbed every detail of this universe—the two films, the comic books, and the DreamWorks Dragons TV series—the same way I absorbed all things Star Wars as a kid.

 

So, as you can imagine, the theatrical release of How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World back in February was a monumental life event that evolved into our own movie-going trilogy. The epic journey began with a Fandango Early Access showing three weeks before the film’s official release date. Only one theater within 30 miles of my home was hosting a 

screening, and I was lucky to acquire four seats together before it sold out. Then we had to make the 30-minute drive to see the movie in an older but at least renovated theater. No Dolby Vision or Atmos, but, hey, the seating had been upgraded, so it wasn’t too bad. You could tell, though, that the AV system had seen a lot of use.

 

The sequel came on opening night at our local theater. (Yes, we still had to go on opening night. After all, the child had waited a quarter of her life for this moment to arrive.) Did I mention that we only have one movie theater in our town of roughly 100,000 people? It was built just a few years ago (yet, still no Dolby Vision or Atmos), and it’s a very pleasant place to see a movie. The AV equipment is still in good shape, they keep the volume within reasonable limits, the 

seating is well spaced so that it’s pretty much impossible for someone to block your view, and the big leather recliners are very comfortable. It’s reserved seating, too—and since it’s the only theater in town, you’d better reserve those seats well in advance if you want get anything decent on opening night. Luckily I did, so all was well.

 

For the final installment of the trilogy, my daughter wanted to see the movie one more time—in 3D. Only one theater in our local movie house was showing the 3D version, and for some inexplicable reason they decided to show the PG13-rated Alita in that theater all day long and the PG-rated dragon movie once a day, only on certain days, at 9:00 p.m. Now, I told the child that was too late for a 10-year-old to go see a movie, but really it’s too late for a 10-year-old’s parent to stay awake through a movie.

 

Instead, we drove 45 minutes to the next closest 3D showing, in a much older theater: A small screen, the classically awful flip-down seats, and a projector that was so dim that roughly 50 percent of the details in dark scenes were completely lost behind the 3D glasses. It you haven’t seen the standard version of The Hidden World, it’s really quite gorgeous, with rich color and exceptional detail (I can’t wait to see it in UHD!), so much of which gets lost in the 3D version if the projector is not up to par.

 

And there you have it. Three different theaters. Three different levels of quality. Lots of pre-planning and scheduling. Lots of driving. Lots of illegal smuggling of reasonably priced snack items . . . 

 

Oh, and one very happy child. Put the snark aside for a minute, and you’re left with a 10-year-old who loved every . . . single
. . . minute. She loved the surprise of the Early Access screening, of getting to see the film before all her friends. She loved

Why Movie Theaters Still Matter

the commemorative Toothless drinking cup and the Toothless-shaped popcorn holder that will remain a cherished possession for years to come. She loved opening night just as much, sharing in the laughter and tears a second time with a packed house. And she thought the 3D was “super cool.” Our epic How to Train Your Dragon journey is an experience that will stay with her for the rest of her life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

As we adults wax philosophical about the technological superiority of luxury home cinema and all of its conveniences, let’s not forget the joy and wonder that a child gets from 

going to the movies. The joy and wonder that we got from going to the movies. Some of my strongest childhood memories are built around the movie theater. I dare say it doesn’t matter where you’re from, how wealthy you are, or how big and amazing your home media system is, your kid is always going to think it’s cooler to go out to the movies.

 

Don’t get me wrong—I still agree with everything Dennis said. I know that 85 to 90 percent of the movies I watch will be at home, and I absolutely want to watch them through a great AV system, on my terms. But for those “event” movies—like the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, which has me almost as giddy as my daughter was over The Hidden World—I want to go out to the movie theater. I want to share in an experience, just like I do at a great concert. I want it to feel like an event.

 

That means I want the movie theaters to get their act together and catch up to where we are now in home cinema so that we movie lovers can enjoy the best of both worlds. I want more theater chains to adapt to this new movie-watching landscape and figure out creative ways to work with companies like Netflix and Amazon instead of against them. I want theaters to survive so that my grandkids will also get to experience the joy and wonder of going to the movies. I can’t wait to see what story captures their heart and imagination.

—Adrienne Maxwell

Adrienne Maxwell has been writing about the home theater industry for longer than she’s
willing to admit. She is currently the 
AV editor at Wirecutter (but her opinions here do not
represent those of Wirecutter or its parent company, The New York Times). Adrienne lives in
Colorado, where she spends far too much time looking at the Rockies and not nearly enough
time being in them.

Even Streaming is Better than Most Movie Theaters

We’ve been talking a lot here lately about how a home entertainment system—built with the right components, carefully installed, and properly calibrated—can now deliver an experience that surpasses that of most commercial movie theaters. There’s this persistent and niggling perception in the home theater enthusiast community, though, that achieving such a seemingly lofty goal means that you must eschew streaming formats like Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Vudu altogether.

Simply put, this is silly.

 

And mind you, I’m not saying that such streaming formats are perfect. Consider the fact that your typical 4K movie, which is only compressed down to roughly 250 megabits per second at your local cineplex, is squeezed into a 15- or 20-megabit-per-second pipe for Vudu streaming. It’s pretty obvious that something is lost along the information superhighway. (A UHD Blu-ray release or Kaleidescape download, by the way, runs at more along the lines of 60 to 100 mbps).

I’m merely arguing that when viewed in the right environment, on the right system, the quality of the experience you can get via streaming can far exceed the quality of most movie theaters.

 

How is that possible given the above admission about compression? It all boils down to the way our eyes prioritize certain elements of an image over others. In short, the most important aspects of an image, at least to our eyes and our brains, are black level and dynamic range. The closer the darkest parts of an image are to true black, and the more steps there are between the darkest and lightest areas of an image (to a point), the more pop and impact an image has.

Streaming Better Than Movie Theaters

Need an example? Here’s a screen grab from the 2017 Pixar film Coco. The top image is a direct screen grab in all its high-contrast glory, with inky blacks and sparkling highlights. And this doesn’t even capture the high dynamic range you’d get from the Vudu stream of the film, with its enhanced sparkle and superior shadow detail.

 

The bottom image? I simply tweaked the contrast to make the blacks a little less black and the whites a little less white, in line with the limited brightness and dynamic range capabilities of most commercial cinema projectors and screens.

 

And you may be thinking to yourself, “What about the vibrancy of the colors? The glow of those magically lit leaves? The pop of Miguel’s jacket? Surely you toned down the colors of the bottom image a bit, too!”  Nope.

The perceived loss of saturation in the bottom image is simply a byproduct of tweaking the relationship between black and white, to illustrate the differences between a good home display and Screen 3 at Jim Bob’s Continental Cinema 16 down the street. That’s literally the only thing I manipulated here.

 

Actually, I lied. The top image was also subjected to roughly four times as much lossy compression as the bottom before I combined them and compressed them again.

And hey, maybe you don’t like the DayGlo color palette of Coco as it was originally intended to be seen. That’s valid. But what’s true of this example is true for any other film. Even via a streaming source like Vudu or Netflix at home, you’re getting an image that’s more vibrant, with truer-to-life contrasts and oodles more brightness. And at the end of the day, that’s far more important to our visual cortices.

 

And that’s not even taking into account the films these days that were color graded and mastered with the superior brightness and dynamic range of home displays in mind, with no thought given to the compromised theatrical experience. I’ve never seen a theatrical presentation that came close to capturing the contrast, shadow detail, and highlights of Netflix’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, just to name one example.

 

Maybe if more commercials theaters converted to Dolby Cinema, with its vivid laser projection and higher dynamic range, this argument would carry less weight. But of the 250 Dolby Cinema theaters in the US of A, the closest one to me is a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. So, for me, the very best commercial cinema experience is defined by the

limitations of IMAX Digital. And if you bother to venture out to your local cineplex with any frequency, the same is likely true for you, as well.

 

In his most recent post, our own John Sciacca made the point that Kaleidescape is the only sure-fire way of ensuring that you enjoy the absolute best picture and sound that you can at home, short of buying UHD Blu-ray discs. That’s absolutely true. No arguments from me on that point. If nothing less than audiovisual perfection will suffice, streaming hasn’t reached that level
. . . yet.

 

But if we’re simply talking about enjoying a better experience than you’re likely to get at your average local megaplex? I would argue that streaming, in the era of 4K and HDR, and when viewed on a properly installed and calibrated home display, has already crossed that Rubicon.

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-
end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of 
Alabama with
his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound 
American Staffordshire
Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

How to Have Movie Theater-Quality Content at Home

Movie Theater-Quality Content at Home

While streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are terrific content sources boasting some great original programming, and include a smorgasbord of virtually unlimited on-demand programming, they’re not a complete media solution for a luxury home theater. And while the picture and sound quality is often “good enough,” when the goal is to exceed the commercial cinema experience at home, you need to look elsewhere for high-resolution content.

 

For a better-than-movie-theater experience at home, no source component or streaming service can touch the Kaleidescape Strato movie player. Here are several reasons why a Strato in your system gives you the convenience of Internet delivery along with the best possible quality, performance, and experience. 

HIGH-QUALITY SELECTION

Many people associate streaming services like Netflix with having instant access to everything their heart desires, but the reality is far different. In fact, Netflix currently offers only seven titles for streaming from the AFI’s Top 100 Movies list.

 

The Kaleidescape Movie Store is the only online purveyor of Hollywood titles in the highest quality, with hundreds of titles in full 4K HDR with lossless Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio soundtracks. Along with films from every major studio, it has relationships with more than 20 smaller, “boutique” studios. Customers also enjoy new releases sooner—often weeks before the movie is available on disc or for streaming. And many titles still in theaters can be “pre-ordered” to be automatically download once they’re released.

 

 

 

CONTENT ALWAYS AVAILABLE

Streaming services regularly lose content due to changing licensing agreements, so just because something is here today doesn’t mean it will be here tomorrow. Consider Walt Disney Studios’ announcement that it plans to remove all its movies from Netflix in favor of its upcoming Disney+ service. Also, streaming relies completely on a fast, constant Internet connection. If you’ve ever had to stop a movie in the middle because of some Internet, network, or “app-crash” issue, you know how frustrating it can be.

 

With a Kaleidescape system, users have instant access to all of their favorite content. A film downloaded to a Strato never disappears, never buffers, and always plays in the highest audio and video quality possible. Enjoying content on a Kaleidescape never depends on your Internet speed or connection.

 

 

PICTURE & SOUND QUALITY

Kaleidescape’s content looks and sounds better than streamed content because its downloads feature far more data—more than 100 Mbps compared to approximately 20 Mbps for streamers—and far less compression. This means there are no motion artifacts or banding, blacks are clean and noise-free, and colors are delivered in full 10-bit, BT.2020 colorspace glory (provided you’re watching a UHD/HDR-quality download).

 

Considering that most digital commercial cinema projectors only have 2K (2048 x 1080) resolution, they aren’t capable of the detail, contrast, or HDR quality of a high-end 4K 

home system. Kaleidescape’s 4K HDR titles paired with a quality video display can easily best the movie theater experience.

 

Many Kaleidescape titles also include reference-quality lossless Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, which are far superior to the lossy Dolby Digital+ streams employed by streaming services. This allows its systems to deliver soundtracks that can compete with the finest commercial cinemas, and that surpass most commercial theaters, whose audio systems often haven’t seen a refresh in years. (Check out “Online Movies Audio Face-off” Part 1 and Part 2 for a direct comparison of streaming audio to Kaleidescape downloads.)

 

 

EASY TO BUILD A LIBRARY

Instead of being limited to the movies screening at your local theater, or roaming through the often old and outdated films available for streaming, Kaleidescape’s Movie Store offers a simple, intuitive way to access over 10,000 titles of content. With Strato’s onscreen store, users can add titles from the comfort of their favorite chair, or, by using a phone app, from anywhere in the world. With an ultra-fast, Gigabit-speed Internet connection, a new 4K HDR movie can be downloaded in as few as 15 minutes, meaning you could choose a movie before dinner and enjoy it during dessert!

Movie Theater-Quality Content at Home

CRAFT YOUR ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE

Unlike streaming services, which are generally delivered via apps embedded in other devices like a Blu-ray player or Smart TV, Kaleidescape movies are served up from an enterprise-grade system purpose-built to play movies in the best possible quality. Kaleidescape includes a best-in-class 4k60 user interface for browsing and sorting movie collections of any size, and integrates with numerous third-party control systems.

 

Movies from the Kaleidescape Store feature metadata supplied by Kaleidescape’s Movie Guide team. Beyond basic information like synopsis, running time, rating, director, and actors, many titles have iconic scenes or songs bookmarked for easy access.

Pairing Kaleidescape with an advanced control system can be like having your own projectionist. The download can provide information to trigger lighting scenes, adjust shading or curtains, open or close screen masking based on aspect ratio, or numerous other automation commands based on things like starting or ending a movie.

 

Like a movie mixologist, Kaleidescape lets you create a demo “script” of favorite scenes, trailers, cover art, or songs to handcraft a warmup to your movie night. Get the crowd laughing with some choice comedy scenes or hype-up an action blockbuster with some of your favorite chases and explosions.

 

 

ADVANCED PARENTAL CONTROLS

A lot of streaming content isn’t suitable for viewers of all ages. Or, there might be something OK for a 13-year-old but out of the question for a three-year-old. Or, what’s to keep kids from buying a ticket to see one movie and then sneaking in to see another you wouldn’t approve of . . ?

 

Kaleidescape systems offer robust parental controls with password protection for content of all ratings. Allow your older kids and guests access to PG-13 films while restricting your youngsters to G-rated titles. Of course, you can “re-rate” films as you see fit, perhaps removing a potentially frightening PG-rated title like Jaws while enabling access to PG-13 titles you consider OK, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Kaleidescape’s unique Kid’s Remote also offers children the ability to access and enjoy their own parental-curated movie collections without any chance of browsing into something they shouldn’t see. 

 

No one online service can address every entertainment need, but by having both a Kaleidescape and streaming service, you’re free to enjoy your favorite movies, TV shows, and concert collections in pristine, highest-quality audio and video on demand, while still being able to binge movies and series via streaming, all without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home!

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Home Theaters are Better Than Movie Theaters

Home Theaters are Better than Movie Theaters

Photo by JESHOOTS.com from Pexels

As John Sciacca points out in his recent article, “Are Home Theaters Making Movie Theaters Better?” home entertainment spent more than half a century playing a catchup game with commercial cinemas, at least in terms of technological innovation and quality of presentation. But Wabbit Season has now pretty much undeniably become Duck Season, and home entertainment reigns supreme. Yes, commercial cinemas are making some interesting technological innovations, as John points out. But most of these are limited to a handful of theaters in major metropolitan areas.

 

For most people, a well-built, well-calibrated, well-programmed home cinema system (be it in a dedicated screening room or multi-use home entertainment space), has the potential to vastly outshine the movie-watching experience at the average local cineplex. And while much of this has to do with incredible advancements in the quality of consumer electronics in the

past few years, that’s not the whole story. There’s also a story to be told here about comfort, convenience, and customization.

 

In short, here are 10 reasons why home theaters are now better than movies theaters.

 

 

1) BETTER PICTURE

These days, even a mid-level Ultra HD (or “4K”) display, when properly calibrated and positioned, can give 

you a better and more immersive image than you’re likely to find in your local movie theater. Sure, your neighborhood megaplex has bigger screens working to its advantage, but depending on how far away you sit, a 75- to 120-inch screen at home can fill up just as much of your field of view. And displays this large are pretty close to becoming the norm for better home entertainment spaces. What’s more, you’d have to look pretty far and wide to find a movie theater screen that delivers anything close to the black levels and high dynamic range delivered by a good modern home display.

 

 

2) BETTER SOUND

At least in theory. While commercial cinemas still have the advantage in terms of channel count, let’s face it—you really don’t need 128 speakers in your living room to deliver an audio experience that’s every bit as engrossing as that of a movie theater. What’s more, theater sound has to be balanced for potentially hundreds of viewers. At home, you can tune the sound for the handful of seats that matter most. And today’s advanced room correction systems can make even a somewhat compromised space sound positively cinematic.

 

 

3) BETTER QUALITY CONTROL

Have you ever been to a commercial cinema and complained about an image that was too dim or stretched, or a screen that was soda-stained, or speakers that were blown, only to be greeted with that deer-in-headlights look? The fact is that most movie theater managers don’t care about (or even understand) quality of presentation. At home, you can either

address problems when they arise or, at worst, call your local integrator for assistance.

 

 

4) THE AV EXPERIENCE CAN BE
TWEAKED TO YOUR TASTE

Whether you like your movie sound to be played at reference listening levels, or just a bit louder or quieter than industry standards would dictate, chances are slim that you’ll ever be happy with where the volume knob is set at your local movie theater. At home, you can adjust the loudness to your liking, and even tweak it based on your mood.

 

 

5) THE “WOW” FACTOR CAN BE EVEN BETTER

Back in the day, there was an undeniable theatrical element involved in going to the movies. And yes, most of that boiled down to that highly anticipated moment when the curtains opened or widened to accommodate a Cinemascope film, but still. They used to call it “going to see a show” for a reason. The movie itself was simply the centerpiece of a larger event.

 

These days? Not so much. But home theaters can make movie-watching special in a way that commercial cinemas have long since abandoned. If you have a home automation system, you can dim the lights and draw the shades and maybe even cause the screen to drop down from the ceiling at the press of a button. If you have a Kaleidescape movie server system, these automated events can even be tied to the opening and closing credits of the movie itself—or even intermission. And you can program an entire evening’s worth of entertainment—trailers, cartoons, movies, and more—that can be launched with a single click. Simply put, movie night at home can be special in a way that bopping down to the local movie theater long ago ceased to be.

 

 

6) YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN TIMETABLE

Speaking of intermission, how many times have you missed a few minutes of a movie due to a necessary potty break? That’s not a problem when you’re watching at home. Perhaps more importantly, unless you’re itching to watch

the latest Marvel movie, which is likely to be playing on half the screens at your local multiplex, you’ll likely find that your choice of viewing times is limited to 4:25 or 9:45. At home, you can start the movie when you want.

 

 

7) THE VARIETY OF ENTERTAINMENT IS SO MUCH BETTER

As I alluded to in that last point, even at a megaplex with 16 screens, half of them are likely to be playing the same movie, which greatly limits your viewing options. These days, the rise of streaming services creating their own award-winning movies means that your options are wide open for home viewing.

Want to check out something like Bird Box or Roma? Outside of a few film festivals and a limited theatrical release aimed only at Oscar contention, the only way you’d ever see these films is at home. You could easily argue that Netflix and Amazon are the most innovative and important film studios in existence today, and their works are only available in the home for most people.

8) TWO WORDS: GOURMET POPCORN

OK, it’s entirely possible that my wife and I are weirdos in this respect, but we’re total popcorn snobs. We have our own oil popper, and when it’s time to sit down for a movie we’re likely to spend five minutes simply deciding what kind of kernels to pop. On the rare occasions when we do go to the cinema, the grease-covered cardboard they sell by the bucket is an unappetizing letdown.

 

And hey, maybe gourmet popcorn isn’t your thing. Substitute your own snack of choice and you get the point. Movie theaters have done a decent job of offering more variety in their snacks in recent years, but let’s be honest here: They’re all kinda gross unless you live in a major metropolis. At home, you can snack better, snack cheaper, and snack healthier to boot.

9) YOU GET TO DEFINE “COMFORT”

My wife recently returned from a road trip, during which she went to the movies with a friend of ours who lives up north. She came home raving about the recliners in the cinema they visited, to which I replied, “Were they as comfortable as your seat on the sofa?” The answer, of course, was a resounding, “no.” Still, it’s humorous to me that the notion of comfortable seating in a movie theater is a novelty in and of itself. What’s more, these seats have to accommodate a broad range of opinions as to what constitutes “comfortable.”


Personally, I like a firm memory foam sofa that conforms to my posterior, but isn’t so cushy that I drift off during our annual 12-hour Lord of the Rings Extended Edition marathon. Maybe your tastes lean even firmer, or maybe you’d prefer to sink into the accoutering equivalent of a marshmallow. Either way, in your home theater or multi-use entertainment space, you get to pick the seats.

 

 

10) YOU GET TO PICK THE AUDIENCE

There may yet come a day when commercial cinemas once again reclaim their technological superiority over home cinema systems en masse, but even if they do, I can’t imagine going back to the movies on the regular. And that mostly boils down to the fact that the moviegoing masses are loud, obnoxious, obtrusive, self-centered jerks. When we went to see Captain Marvel a few weeks back, I nearly sprained my shushing muscles. And outside of chains like Alamo Drafthouse, most cinema operators generally couldn’t care less if kids are swinging from the rafters.


Anyone who comes to my house to watch a movie knows they’re there to watch a movie, not gab for two hours straight or check their phones every ten minutes. And you could argue that my rules for movie-watching at home are a little strict, but you know what? Friends and family who join me on my couch for a show always come to appreciate the specialness of the experience.

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-
end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of 
Alabama with
his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound 
American Staffordshire
Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopoulos

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopolous
Theo's Corner

In my previous two posts, Cineluxe editor-in-chief Michael Gaughn talked to engineer Paul Stary
and me about our efforts to re-engineer the early Rayva theater designs in order to turn them into
a product that can be economically manufactured, quickly delivered, and easily installed. In this
installment, Michael talks to Rayva’s operations manager Savvas Stamatopoulos and me about
how Savvas 
cataloged every element of the Rayva designs and created a software system that
allows Rayva to respond instantly to orders placed from anywhere in the world.

—T.K.

 

 

Theo Kalomirakis  Now that the engineering phase is winding down, Paul’s role is diminishing. Everything now moves into the real world, and that’s where Savvas keeps control of the process. He is now preparing us for actual orders whether the order is here, in India, in Angola, or in Russia. As the business grows, Savvas will be the overall coordinator between individual project managers that will have to be hired for other parts of the world.

 

Michael Gaughn  How does Savvas’s work relate to everything we discussed with Paul—about the re-engineering of the wall panels, etc.?

TK  Savvas’s job was to study all the panels needed for a room, and compile an Excel spreadsheet that listed, for example, how many panels were needed for the Illuminations design [shown above] in a small-size room, how many were needed for Illuminations in a large-size room, and so on.

 

Small rooms have three panels on the wall. Medium rooms have four panels. Bigger rooms have five panels. The price of the theater increases based on the number of panels because you have more components. Since we have 12 designs available for 12 room sizes, we had to come up with 144 templates.

 

Savvas Stamatopoulos  You also have to take into consideration the ceiling height and the position of the door, whether it’s on a side wall—

 

TK  It was a very complex process.

 

SS  Ultimately, we ended up with 500-something different room templates.

 

TK  The bottom line is, Savvas needed to figure out what happens in each room based on its size and its design. So he spent a few weeks recording every single item we see in a theater on a spreadsheet—not from the perspective only of a particular design, but from the perspective of all the designs.

 

And that plays out on three levels, the first level being the overall design. The second level is, how many panels are in this design? And with something like illuminations, how many fixtures like light sculptures are involved? The third level is determining how many panels there are. How many wood parts do they contain? How many screws? How many wall brackets?

 

So Savvas created a very comprehensive chart of the parts, which is layered so you can collapse it and see only the overall design, the room. Expand the chart a little, and you see the panels in the room. Expand each panel even more, and you see the wood parts of the panel. Expand it even more, and you see the metal parts.

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopolous

ABOUT SAVVAS STAMATOPOULOS

Savvas was born in Piraeus, Greece in 1977. He studied Shipping and Logistics at the Business College of Athens and at London Guildhall University.

 

He began his professional career in 2000, working for a couple of shipping/forwarding companies in Piraeus. In 2001, he became involved in his first major business project, setting up and managing a 3PL (third-party logistics) company whose main purpose was to provide logistics services for the Greek subsidiary of one of the six oil and gas “supermajors,” a collaboration that lasted until 2011.

 

In 2012, he co-founded a traditional milk and dairy products firm, where he was the executive manager until 2018, when the company merged with a large trading and importing firm of the sector.

 

Savvas joined the Rayva team in the summer of 2018, where he is responsible for creating the software to list and track all of the elements in the company’s theater designs. He also manages project costing and operations.

 

He enjoys playing music, free diving & spearfishing, and spending time with his dogs as a way to balance the stressful everyday life of logistics management.

This was a very comprehensive process of analyzing the product from the point of view of codifying everything so we could create list of parts that can go to a manufacturer. That is what Savvas has been doing before even Paul came onboard.

 

MG  Where are you in the process right now?

SS  At the moment, we’re trying to find the sweet spot between an artistic creation and an industrial product, because these rooms were designed by some very gifted designers and artists here in Greece—in my opinion, they are works of art.

 

You know art, by definition, usually doesn’t take into consideration cost, or the logistics of production, the ease of installation, transportation, storage, and so on. So we need to find ways to facilitate these things, and to turn these designs into an industrial product without making any compromises to the artistic aspect of the theater.

 

This is what we’re doing right now with the help of Paul, who’s an excellent engineer. He is breaking each aspect of the theaters into the smallest possible parts so we can ensure that they’re always the same and easy to to install. And so I can know beforehand what the delivery time will be, how much it will cost, and so on. He is re-engineering every aspect of the theaters, because for an industrial product to be successful you need to be able to produce it for the lowest possible cost. This is our main challenge right now.

 

I am inputting each part into MRP [material requirements planning] software. Each theater consists of many, many parts such as wood frames, metal brackets, magnets, and wiring conduits.

 

When someone says they want to have a certain design for a certain room size, we input it in the system and it shows us exactly what are the materials we need from the last screw to the biggest part, how much it will cost, how long do you need to be ready, and so on.

 

MG  If I’m understanding the process correctly, the wall panels are the one constant in every design.

 

SS  Yes, these panels are the key elements in a Rayva theater. What is different is the fabric that goes over the panel. In some designs, the fabric is printed with a drawings or pictures. And in other designs, there are custom design elements attached to them.

 

TK  Basically, the panels as an item are always the same.

 

SS  The frame is more or less the same.

TK  We have about 12 panel sizes, but it’s the same item, just the size changes. And then it gets a cover. And on top of the cover, we have design elements. These are the three elements: The panel, the fabric that covers them, and the artwork that goes in front of them.

MG  Right. So I’m hoping you can fill me in on some of the steps along the way. For instance, Antonia Papatzanaki’s designs use light sculptures [shown at right] that would be considered works of art.

 

TK  Yes.

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopolous

MG  What impact does that have on the whole engineering and reproduction process because when you’re building something more utilitarian like a car, you’re not dealing with artists and individual sculptures?

 

TK  Each artwork is addressed as an individual element that needs to be engineered in a different way than the artist intended. For example, Antonia’s fixture is 50 pounds. It would be difficult to install something that heavy. So, Paul re-engineered it to make it easier to manufacture, easier to mount, and much lighter than it was. Originally, the support for the sculpture had to go through the panel and be attached to the wall because it was so heavy the panel couldn’t support it. But now, that sculpture is so light that it can be mounted on the panel itself without having to create a hole in the panel in order to reach the wall.

 

Every artwork is engineered to maintain its integrity, because we want to make sure that no matter how we re-build it, it looks like what the artist envisioned.

 

MG  Who acts as the intermediary between the artist and Rayva?

 

TK  I receive the artwork from the artists. The artwork then goes to Paul, who re-engineers it. And when it’s finished, I show it to the artist so they sign off. We don’t want the artist involved with the engineering process because we have a very specific way of creating consistency and unanimity in how we engineer things.

 

MG  Does that pose any unique challenges? Especially, considering the diversity of the kind of art you’re incorporating.

 

TK  The only limitation is the imagination of the engineer. We’re not talking about developing a rocket that goes to the moon. It’s not that complex—it’s an artwork. If you have an engineering background, you can look inside the hood—I’m using the same analogy for the artwork that I used for the re-engineering of the wall panels—and you find out what it is.

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopolous

For example, we had a challenge with the Origami design. You’ve seen the fabric that covers the Origami triangles, right?

 

MG  Yes.

 

TK  I didn’t like how the fabric was folded at the edges of the triangle; it wasn’t clean. So Paul said, “Are you opposed to having a paint that looks 

like fabric? That way we don’t have to deal with the wrapping methods for the ends of the fabric.” I said, “No.” So, he found a paint by DuPont that’s sprayed. It’s the color of the fabric, and it has the texture of velvet, of linen.

 

In the process of re-engineering, we’re addressing issues we have with the original artwork from the perspective of, “How do we simplify it? How do we make the process faster? And how do we change the method of fabrication without betraying the concept of the artist?”

 

This is the beautiful thing about having an artist working with an engineer—it’s a collaborative effort. If you work with smart people, let them make creative decisions. What I find exciting and exhilarating about the development process is that I’ve learned to trust people.

 

When I was a custom designer, everything had to come to me to be approved because it was a creative decision, quote unquote. I had to have the last word. I didn’t allow designers to make the big decisions. I made them myself.

 

I didn’t trust people before. But this time I do.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Can the Beauty Industry Save Specialty AV?

Can the Beauty Industry Save Specialty AV?

What if I told you the sky wasn’t falling. That AV enthusiasts weren’t dying off in droves due to old age and that young people didn’t only value convenience over quality? What if I told you that? Would you believe me?

 

As a fellow member of the AV press for going on 20 years now (OMG I’m freakin’ old), I have been party to the slow decline of what was once a flourishing hobby. For the past few years, specialty rags and manufacturers alike have been arguing over just what exactly the cause of their demise has been. Was it the housing bubble and subsequent financial crisis? China? Or Amazon that killed specialty AV? While compelling arguments could be made linking all of the above to the current sad state of affairs, I argue another point—that specialty AV continues to die by its own hand.

 

The problem with specialty AV—of which I lump audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts alike into the same overarching category—is that for all its so-called technological advancements, it lacks the imagination to go where its customers are. Ahh, but Andrew, you’re going to say the Internet, and plenty of companies sell their wares on the Internet. To which I say, there is a very big delta between making your products available and “selling” via the Internet. A lot of companies do the former, but outright fail at the latter.

 

Going back to the AV press for a moment, they are or continue to be destined to fail because the entire business model rests upon the same handful of people continuing to support the same handful of topics that are then devoured by the same handful of enthusiasts. Much like a snake eating its own tail, the “meal” can last for quite a while, so long as there are no distractions and the snake is allowed to just keep on eating. The problem is, over time, the snake will tire and either stop 

eating and choke to death, or spit out its own tail and slither on to greener pastures. Both scenarios are occurring, in real time, before our very eyes, as once great bastions of the medium continue to publish on borrowed time. Stereophile and Sound & Vision, I’m talking to you.

 

So where is this greener pasture? Well, it’s on the Internet, but it doesn’t take the form of an online store or the like. It’s in the power of video—more specifically, brand influence and marketing. My fellow writer, Dennis Burger, recently wrote an article entitled, “D&D and the Decline of Traditional Media,” in which he talks about how viewers no longer need to rely on the major networks or studios for their personal entertainment. Beyond entertainment, content creators are 

showing advertisers, manufacturers, and consumers alike just how much power they hold and how much sway over the conversation and our buying decisions they have. In turn, we’ve begun to realize the same. For together with our favorite influencers or personalities we can collectively prop a company up . . . or tear it down.

 

Case in point, the makeup/beauty community all but lives on YouTube, and as a result influencers on that platform churn out broadcast-quality content regularly, turning teens and young adults into millionaires and celebrities. Any one of these YouTubers can make or break a product in a single video—be it sponsored or not—and if they “make it,” the rewards are otherworldly. We’re talking millions of dollars earned in the span of minutes.

 

Now, you may be thinking audio/video is not makeup, and you’d be right, but in some ways they’re one and the same. Both genres play heavily on our emotions. Both try and sell you a lifestyle. Both can get very expensive indeed. But one is inclusive. The other resists change at every turn. Care to wager which is doing better?

 

This is the difference between making your wares available on the Internet and truly selling, in earnest, on the Internet. So to bring it back to my opening statements, it’s not that the sky is falling, and that specialty AV is dying; it’s just that those in charge have failed to read the tea leaves in time to save themselves. But rest assured, despite the establishment’s best efforts to kill it, specialty AV will live on. And the brands that start aligning themselves with other brands, personalities, and influencers now will be the ones left standing when the dust settles.

Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson is a photographer and videographer by trade, working on commercial
and branding projects all over the US. He has served as a managing editor and
freelance journalist in the AV space for nearly 20 years, writing technical articles,
product reviews, and guest speaking on behalf of several notable brands at functions
around the world.

What Makes a Projection Screen Luxury?

What Makes a Projection Screen Luxury?

The natural followup to my post “What Makes a Video Display Luxury?” is to talk about projection screens. There is a reason why projection systems—whether front or rear—are often referred to as “two-piece,” because the projector and screen play near equal roles in delivering the best image quality possible.

 

Fact is, no matter how fantastic your projector is, the image you‘re watching is reflected off of a screen, and an inferior one will rob a projector of its maximum performance potential by actually introducing artifacts or color shifts to the image or by just not delivering all the detail and resolution the projector is capable of.

For some assistance with this, I reached out to Robert Keeler, Vice President of Sales at Stewart Filmscreen. Stewart has been building high-performance screens for the luxury commercial, professional, and home cinema markets for the past 71 years, and is widely regarded as a leader in the premium screen category.

 

BETTER BUILD QUALITY

Like any premium product, a luxury screen will exhibit better build quality. This means frame corners that meet perfectly and screen material that’s tensioned to remain perfectly flat. A fixed screen (as opposed to a motorized model that rolls up and down) will have a velvet-like coating around the frame to absorb stray light and enhance contrast, and motorized models use quieter motors. And, since the screen is  the most visible part of most theater systems, it’s important to have one that looks good whether the lights are on or off. 

 

While not part of build quality per se, luxury screen systems also offer more ways to interface with advanced control systems, say either via contact closures, relays,

infra-red, RS-232, or IP. This ensures that the screen can accept the correct cues from, say, a Kaleidescape system when you’re switching between movies that have different aspect ratios. 

 

MASKING SYSTEM

Speaking of aspect ratios, the best luxury projection screens incorporate masking, which is black material that closes off, or “masks,” the unused screen area so just the projected image is visible. This eliminates any distracting white space around the image.

 

According to Robert Keeler, “The majority of [TV and projection] screens sold are 1.78 to 1, 16 by 9 aspect ratio, so we are used to seeing black bars either on the top and bottom or the sides of the image depending on the content aspect ratio. As good as projectors are getting, they are still widely based on a 16 by 9 chipset, so content with any aspect ratio other than 16 by 9 will have visible black bars showing.”

 

With front projectors, these black bars aren’t truly black because the projector is emitting some stray light. This ends up lowering the contrast ratio of the image. So having masking to cover these unused parts of the image visibly improves the picture quality.

 

But, aspect ratios can be tricky, since filmmakers choose different ratios based on the look they’re hoping to achieve. (See the diagram below.) For example, older films like The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca are 1.33:1, many documentaries like Free Solo are 1.78:1, some directors prefer using 1.85:1 such as Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan, E.T., and Jurassic Park, and you have “widescreen” films like Lawrence of Arabia at 2.2:1, Star Wars at 2.35:1, Bohemian Rhapsody at 2.4:1, and Ben Hur at 2.76:1.

What Makes a Projection Screen Luxury?

The ultimate solution is a system that can adjust all four sides of the screen image, like Stewart Filmscreen’s Director’s Choice, which uses a 4-way masking system.“This is the epitome of Hollywood,” Keeler says, “with the ability to frame the content so the black bars are invisible and only the content is being shown, whatever the aspect ratio.”

 

SCREEN MATERIAL

Choosing the correct screen material is about more than just its color. Screens use something called gain, which can increase or decrease the amount of light coming off the screen, but can also limit the viewing angle. Also, screens with high amounts of gain can introduce artifacts known as “hotspotting,” where images are brighter in the middle of the screen than at the sides, and “color shifting,” where colors can look different depending on where the viewer is seated. Discussing your media room needs based on its size, seating layout, and lighting conditions with a qualified installer will allow them to guide you in selecting the correct screen material for your installation.

 

“With more than 25 material choices, Stewart Filmscreen can offer end users the right material for the task at hand, rear projection and front projection alike,” Keeler said. “While some may choose not to go with the ultimate cinematic experience, they can at least purchase the very same screen material used by Hollywood directors, post-production departments, colorists, studios, etc.”

 

DIFFERENT SCREENS FOR DIFFERENT CONDITIONS

Say you have a room you use for a variety of activities. Maybe for a lot of gaming or TV watching during the day, but mostly for movie watching at night. Or maybe sometimes you like to watch with the lights up, and other times you want it pitch black. A screen that works best for one of these situations might not be right for the other. One incredibly innovative solution for this is Stewart’s Gemini.

What Makes a Projection Screen Luxury?

“Gemini [shown above] is a unique product that addresses a varied usage model,” Keeler explains. “While masking screens exist to accommodate a variety of aspect ratios, Gemini addresses the variety of usage model. Watching movies [usually] suggests a completely light controlled environment and the content is often in Cinemascope, 2:35 to 2:4. Whereas watching TV suggests the lights are on and the content is 1.78, 16 by 9. The screen material choice for one activity is likely the wrong choice for the other activity. With that in mind, Gemini is a dual-roller motorized screen that deploys a reference-grade material for movies, and an ambient-light-rejecting material when watching TV, giving viewers the best performance whatever the situation.”

 

ACOUSTICALLY TRANSPARENT

Another potential benefit of a luxury screen is using a material that’s acoustically transparent. Initially acoustically transparent screens used lots of tiny perforations to allow sound to pass through, but all of these holes allowed the projector’s light to pass through as well, resulting in a loss of brightness. Also, the holes would actually interact with the pixel structure of the projector and introduce a video artifact known as moiré.

 

While perforation technology has advanced to address these issues, another option pioneered by screen manufacturer Screen Research is to use woven material that allows sound to pass through without being degraded by the screen. Kind of like a special-purpose speaker grille cloth, these screens let you position your main three front speaker channels directly behind the screen just like at a movie theater. The benefits of this are twofold. First, you don’t have to worry about the speaker’s look or style impacting the overall look of the room, which can allow the installer to use a larger/better speaker that otherwise wouldn’t fit with the room’s décor. Second, with the speakers located behind the screen, the audio cues precisely track the onscreen action, perfectly marrying the picture and sound.

 

 

To wrap up, Keeler commented, “There is some science behind integrating the projector and the screen along with the room and viewing habits, and a luxury brand should be able to not only help with selecting appropriate screen size and material choices, but be well versed in other aspects of the project such as audio and video, and the rest of the package and maintain relationships with all sorts of ancillary brands to support the Big Screen Experience.”

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Creating Rayva: Paul Stary, Pt. 2

Creating Rayva: Paul Stary, Pt. 2
Theo's Corner

In Part 2 of Michael Gaughn’s interview with me and Paul Stary, who engineered the Rayva theater designs, we talk about our efforts to ready the designs for manufacturing and distribution.

T.K.

 

Michael Gaughn  Have you hit any major hurdles in your collaboration? Has there been anything where you’ve said, “It looks good right now but as this plays out and has to be reproduced it’s just not going to fly.

 

Theo Kalomirakis  Every step of the way we had a challenge. We had challenges before we started dealing with them. For example, just stretching the fabric with staples around the frame looked good, and the end result was good, but it wasn’t practical for shipping the product in small boxes instead of having it crated. So that challenge led us to a solution.

 

Without challenges you get stuck in the initial concept and then you wait until the concept is applied in the real world and then it flies or it dies. Challenges during the course of engineering are a godsend. You come to see them as obstacles that need to be overcome in pursuit of a final, perfect product.

MG  It seems like there are two levels to this process, one level being the wall panels, which are a common element to every theater. But then there is the unique application of design elements on top of the panels. It seems like that second level has to be more flexible because you’re incorporating a lot of different elements.

 

TK  That’s correct. The panels provide the backdrop for the theater and conceal the engineering, the speakers, and the acoustical treatments. But the creative part is what goes in front of the panels. And that brings a unique set of challenges because those elements change based on the artist.

 

It’s like a gallery where you hang paintings on fixed walls, but one month the painter is Basquiat, the next month is Andy Warhol, the third month is Picasso. So you have very severely controlled backdrops, which Paul engineers, that artists can use as a depository of their ideas. They give us ideas and then we turn these ideas into something that can be built predictably and repeatedly.

 

MG  Are you at the point now where you feel like you can build this model out, where you can just keep scaling it up as you get more orders? Or is that a whole other phase of development?

 

TK  We have a perfect foundation for building up orders at any number or quantity we want. Paul has said it’s like building a skyscraper. If you don’t have a good foundation—and we didn’t have a good foundation at the beginning—

you’re going to build the first floor and the second floor, and then the third floor will collapse because its weight can’t be supported by the foundation.

 

So we’ve created a foundation that ensures repeatability and dependability no matter what the order or the scale of sales are. This is the brilliance of engineering properly. We create a repeatable result.

Paul Stary  Yes, like most products at the beginning, it’s not going to start out at the highest quantities; it will be a building process. So the elements of various designs and components are easily scalable by either increasing the volume with any one vendor or adding more vendors. Because everything is so well documented, we can draw on resources from around the 

Each of the wall panels in Marina Vernicos’ theater design “Pools” contains scores of parts engineered
to ensure the panels can be easily shipped and assembled. Each panel is designed to be able to support
decorative elements and lighting fixtures and to conceal speakers, acoustic treatments, and wiring.

world. We can scale it up pretty easily by just adding the resources necessary at the time to allow the building process to occur. So I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on being able to respond to the growth.

 

MG  Where are both of you in the process now? Do you feel like you have the Rayva model completely engineered?

 

TK  Yes, the engineering is nearing completion and then pricing will come next. I would say we’re about 70% done because we’ve built the foundation and are now adding the details to the foundation.

 

PS  Yes, all of the foundation has been laid, which means we’ve defined all the parts, determined how they interrelate, and what is required for manufacturing.

 

TK  We also had the luck of working with people who bought into the concept. One of which is our friend Savvas Stamatopolous from Greece, who is working with Paul on the next phase of the product development—how you implement the product. That means creating software that allows the product to be ordered, inventoried, and sold. So he had a very key role in creating a database of parts that is organized, codified, and priced so that at the click of a button we can get prices for every theater configuration based on the components that are used.

 

We have a team that worked in conjunction with Paul and me to create the parts we needed in order to develop the product. And that includes creating 144 templates with every possible important room configuration. Dimitris Theodorou, working under our project architect Eric Chuderewicz, created these endless templates that in turn allowed us to count how many parts per theater are in each room size and each design. It was a very complex process that took a few months, but we did it.

 

So this isn’t just developing the product, it’s developing a product based on a whole scheme of things where there is the inaugural vision and then you drill down to the details. Just like Paul described [in Part 1], at the beginning you see this from a 30-mile view and then as you go down you start tightening the loose ends and create the kind of product we believe will change the way people think about home entertainment.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.